What to see in Norcia? If you are passionate about art, history, food & nature, this town is for you! Today we will visit the land of St Benedict of Nursia Italy, a small minicipality in the heart of Umbria.
We have entered spring, the days are getting longer and the sun is warming the cities. With such pleasant weather, there is nothing better than a nice trip to take in the beauty of the Belpaese.
In the province of Perugia, Norcia is part of the Monti Sibillini National Park. In fact, the town is located at the meeting point of two amazing landscapes, the Valnerina and the Sibillini Mountains.
Boasting an important historical and artistic heritage, Norcia is one of the most important art cities in Umbria. Rich in archaeological evidence, the latter identifies the first human settlements as far back as the Neolithic period.
It was founded by the Sabines and became an important strategic centre. Its ancient name is curious: Nursia derives from the divinity propitiator of fortune, worshipped by the Etruscans. The term was mentioned by many famous historians such as Virgil, Plutarch and Livy; it later changed into Norcia, its current name.
The birthplace of St Benedict is characterised by a wide food and wine culture. Also known as “the city of the black truffle“ and “the city of the master pork butchers“, it is rich in scents and flavours, with the most succulent delicacies.
Norcia also offers an enchanting landscape, especially during the lentil blossom period. In summer, the Castelluccio plateau is transformed into a wonderful carpet of colours.
Visiting Norcia gives you the opportunity to admire this spectacle from the front row, thanks to a holiday dedicated to relaxation and to the discovery of new places, cultures and flavours.
7 Best Things to do in Norcia Italy
Despite its small size, Norcia has an immense cultural heritage. And if you are not sure where to start and what to see in Norcia, I recommend the must-see attractions in this small Umbrian town:
- Piazza San Benedetto
- Basilica of St. Benedict
- The Castellina
- Town Hall
- The Cathedral of Santa Maria Argentea
- The Monumental Complex of Saint Francis
- City walls
These places are definitely worth visiting, trust me. So now that you know what to see in Norcia, all you have to do is arm yourself with a backpack and start your adventure!
What to see in the land of Saint Benedict of Nursia Italy?
Let’s start our tour from the town’s main square, Piazza San Benedetto. Centrally located, it is the reference point for Norcia’s inhabitants and the symbol of the historic town.
An integral part is the white marble Statue of Saint Benedict of Nursia, which stands in the centre of the square. It is dedicated to St Benedict of Nursia, the saint who was born in Norcia and who is now the patron saint of the city. It is an emblematic element for Norcia, housed in the square surrounded by the main monumental structures.
Specifically, the square is overlooked by the Basilica of St. Benedict, the Palazzo Comunale, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Argentea and the Castellina.
What to see in Norcia as soon as you reach the main square? Definitely the Basilica of St. Benedict.
The Basilica of St Benedict of Nursia, built on the basis of a Latin cross and a single nave, is erected on the remains of an ancient Roman basilica from the 1st century. Legend has it that it was built on the ruins of the saint’s birthplace.
The façade, with its typical gabled structure, is characterised by inlaid polychrome marble that breaks up its whiteness. The central rose window is surrounded by the symbols of the four evangelists and dominates the portal. TThe latter is flanked by bands of columns and a sculptural group representing the Madonna and Child.
Today, unfortunately, only the façade, part of the walls and the bell tower are visible, supported by scaffolding, following the 2016 earthquake.
More monuments to see in Norcia: the Town Hall, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Argentea and the Castellina
Staying close to the square, on the north-eastern side, stands the Town Hall, built in the 14th century. Inside we find the Sala del Consiglio Maggiore, the Sala Sertoriana and the Cappella dei Priori, where we find the very rich reliquary of St Benedict of Nursia from 1450, made of gilded silver and in Gothic-Renaissance style.
We move to the southern part of the square to learn about the history and art of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Argentea. The cathedral was built after 1560 and the bell tower in 1869. Inside, the Cathedral contains several magnificent works of art. Among these, the fresco depicting Saints Benedict and Scholastica with the Madonna and Child in the centre is remarkable. Another characteristic element of this place is the Crucifix by Giovanni Teutonico dated 1494.
Finally, we come to the Castellina building, which occupies the entire western side of the square. The Castellina is the fortified residence of the apostolic governors and was built at the request of Pope Julius III. The desire expressed by Julius III was to give the State of the Church greater control over its peripheral territories. From 1860, the Castellina became the seat of the Municipality’s offices until 1967, when it became the seat of the Civic and Diocesan Museum.
Last stops: St. Francis Complex and city walls
Norcia has other places of culture and history, such as the St. Francis complex. The 14th-century St. Francis complex now houses the auditorium, the municipal library and the historical archives. In the single-nave interior, an unimaginable world of Gothic art reigns. This art is represented by several surviving frescoes, including “The Coronation of the Virgin”, painted by Jacopo Siculo in 1541.
What to see in Norcia to round off your visit? Our itinerary can only be concluded with a visit to what encloses the magnificent world of Norcia, the city walls. The ancient walls of Norcia surround and protect the town. They open into seven gates, corresponding to the seven small quarters that make up the town like a puzzle.
Porta Romana, Porta San Giovanni, Porta Narenula, Porta Palatina, Porta Maccarone, Porta Ascolana and Porta Meggiana are the protagonists, today completely intact. Although there is even debate about an eighth gate. Called “Porta delle Cerece“, it has been closed off by bars since the space between the city walls and the Castellina was filled in. It was the exclusive passageway of the fortress, through which condemned prisoners passed on their way to the place of their execution.
What to do in Norcia?
Visiting Norcia does not only mean discovering the town and its monuments, but also appreciating the beauty of the surrounding landscapes.
On a sunny day, the ideal thing to do would be to take a beautiful walk around Castelluccio di Norcia, a hamlet of the same municipality located in the heart of the Sibillini Mountains. Indeed, summer is the perfect time to visit the mountains. You can breathe light, pleasant, clean air and enjoy the spontaneous blossoming in the woods.
Thus, nature is yet another protagonist of Norcia’s beauty, making the town so “versatile” that it is also perfect for the more sporty. In fact, there are many sporting activities for adventure lovers. Trekking, horse riding, hiking and even mountain biking. It is no coincidence that the 1542-metre Forca Canapine area in the Umbro-Marchigiano Apennines is recognised as an international summer retreat for the most prestigious sports clubs.
After a nice bike ride or an intense hike, you have the chance to gaze at the magnificence of the lentil fields in bloom. A unique spectacle that forms a veritable floral rainbow.
Precisely in summer, between June and July, the lentil flowering period takes hold and paints the canvas of this flat area like a palette of colours. Like a work of art, the blossoming in Castelluccio di Norcia becomes a popular tourist attraction.
Norcia’s food and wine
What to do in Norcia besides visiting and exploring the town? Certainly “trying its delicacies” would be a good answer.
As already mentioned, Norcia is rich in delicacies that enrich the local food and wine culture. In fact, it is defined as the home of good food, salami and truffles. Its prized black truffle is a star and is used in many local dishes. But that’s not all, other important protagonists are sheep’s milk cheeses, saffron, Castelluccio lentils and mushrooms, especially porcini.
Not to mention Umbrian wine. The territory with its vast vineyards, together with its mild dry climate, are conditions that make Umbria perfect for wine growing. Grechetto di Montefalco, Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG, Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG and Orvieto DOC are certainly among the most famous Umbrian wines you should try.
However, the importance of pork is indisputable. The link between the small town and this animal is so strong that it has given its name to a real profession, that of “norcino” (pork butcher). The specialities are fresh and dried sausages and prosciutto. Visiting Norcia, in fact, gives you the chance to taste the famous Prosciutto di Norcia PGI, a delight for the palate.
All roads lead to Norcia, or nearly so
Reaching Norcia is very simple. The most convenient way is by car, whether you are coming from the north or the south. However, it is also possible to reach this small town by train or by comfortable bus.
If you wish to use the train, note that Norcia has no train station. Consequently, you can choose to get off at Spoleto or Rome, precisely at Tiburtina Station. From there, you can take the regular shuttle bus service.
As for the bus service, there are a number of direct shuttle buses departing from Terni, Spoleto and Rome.
As you know, Norcia has a history of earthquakes. In 2016, the most recent earthquake caused damage that is unfortunately still visible. A low blow for the historic town, which found itself in a sea of rubble. Nevertheless, Norcia has proved resilient and willing to recover its majesty, continuing to amaze the tourists who visit it.
If you are planning to visit the beautiful town of Norcia, Italia Delight offers several experiences around this city. For example, in Spello, where you can enjoy unique food and wine experiences:
You will find other amazing food experiences near Norcia, where you can appreciate the beauty of the vineyard-covered landscape and taste the most famous Umbrian wines.
What’s more, you have the opportunity to create your own tours with the local Expert.
What are you waiting for? Compare them and choose the one that suits you best. Now that you know what to see in Norcia, get ready to discover the beauty of this small town!